The Way We Learn

Recently, a group of us Fluty-type people were having a conversation about how we memorize music, and someone posted the question:” do you look away when you memorize music, and where do you look?”, which prompted someone to introduce the concept of Learning Styles.

Studies have been done about the way – and why – a person will avert their eyes when they think. It turns out that, according to some researchers, the direction that you look reveals the way you think and learn! How cool is that?

According to this chart, if you continue to look straight ahead, make eye contact, or your eyes drift upward, you are a “visual” learner. This learner also might be a fast talker.

If your eyes move from side-to-side, or typically cut to your “off” side (to the left, for those who are right-handed, to the right for those who are left-handed), you are an auditory-learner. You might also speak with a rhythmic voice.

And finally, if you typically look to the right, move around a lot, and speak slowly, you might be a “kinesthetic”, or hands-on, learner.

This information is further expanded upon in this reader-friendly study write up.

This stuff is really fascinating. I love to learn about the ways that people learn, because I’m always looking for better ways to not only teach Josh, but to teach the boys in my Pack. If I can become accomplished at reading their “learning styles”, I can impart MUCH more information to them in a way that they can access. How cool is that?

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12 Responses to The Way We Learn

  1. SKL says:

    Hmm, well, I’m usually an oddball when it comes to these things. I do all of the above at different times. Sometimes I close my eyes, too. So I guess that means I’m not any particular kind of learner.

    I too am fascinated by how people (especially kids) learn. If you know my personal history, you’ll already know that. I used to be a real geek about it. Now that I’m a parent, it’s just par for the course. Of course I happen to be blessed with kids on both ends of every learning spectrum, which keeps things interesting.

    Just yesterday I posted a question in an education-oriented forum, about how kids learn best at the piano. Specifically, is it better for them to practice with each hand separately, or both hands together, assuming the child in question is capable of either? Most kids are encouraged or instructed to play with the hands separately (when learning a piece), and I always thought it was to make it easier, i.e., a crutch. My thought was that if the child doesn’t actually need this crutch, it would be better to look at the whole grand staff while learning a new song. I was clearly the minority in that discussion, however. But it seemed to me that most responders were believing what they’d been told, versus really giving it any thought. “That’s how I was taught, that’s how my kids are being taught, of course it’s right.” Well, people once said that about the earth being flat, too.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that everyone learns differently. Myself, I learn really well from reading, but I’m a very poor listener. So it’s difficult for me to deal with people (like my boss) who feel the need to solve problems by “thinking out loud” and who rarely communicate in writing. I can only listen so long and then I start to get a headache or feel a strong need to get the heck away. I can often be heard saying “send me an email,” and pretty much never “let’s call so-and-so and discuss it.” This, of course, has its good and bad points. On the positive side, when we have the opportunity to do a project that requires both styles, we kick butt. We used to be the top students in MBA school because we did all our projects together and covered every angle. (Even if I did visibly shake when we had to do presentations.)

    • Laura says:

      I never thought of learning piano separate-handed. That’s really interesting. I can’t play, I’m still at the pick-a-note stage, but the two times I made a concerted effort, I did the both-hands-at-once style. In college, my teacher taught that way (she also whacked my hands with a ruler. Old School Nun), and then, before Josh was born, I was teaching myself, and I would separate the hands for a bit, but I’d practice them together, unless I had trouble. Maybe I’ll try the other method. Being a single-line reader, and flute player, I have a LOT of difficulty reading two lines at once, and getting my hands to work independently of each other.

      **side note… when your girls are able, maybe a year or two yet, have them practice with a television or a radio playing in the room with them. It seems counter-intuitive, because you want them to focus on their music, but it actually helps by introducing distractions. It was one of the best things one of my flute teachers did for me. I can play through almost anything, thanks to that “distraction training” she insisted upon.**

    • Joy says:

      When I took piano lessons we used both hands also. It doesn’t really makes sense to me to learn a song one way and then another. If it’s a two handed song that is. To me, it’s like learning the song twice.

      • SKL says:

        Nice to know I’m not crazy!

        I honestly don’t know whether I needed the two-hand method or not. I know that if I find a piece very difficult, I will break up the hands. But then putting them back together seems like a whole additional challenge. But then again, maybe that is because I learn differently from others.

  2. Laura says:

    As for my own learning style, I am a combination of the three, I think, but with a strong emphasis on Kinesthetic/hands-on learning. As I age, I am becoming less patient with reading instructions – most of the time there are too many extraneous words, because they’re trying to cover every eventuality. This is especially true with new computer programs. So I give up quickly, and just dive into the software. What can go wrong??? (she asks innocently as her computer spontaneously combusts)

    Like SKL, I also have much difficulty listening. I’m a big talker, but when someone is trying to explain something to me without using props or letting me get my hands into it, I completely shut down. I need the visual.

    And you can bet that the next time I’m trying to memorize a piece, I’m going to be paying attention to the direction of my gaze…

  3. Nikki says:

    That is cool! I am definitely a visual learner. I already knew that, and I tend to look up when I’m thinking. I learn much better if I am seeing it. I’d rather read it or watch it being done, than to hear someone say it. I just don’t retain the information nearly as well.

  4. Joy says:

    I’m definitely visual learner. I can learn almost anything by just seeing it once or twice. Once I “see it,” I get it. I’m like Laura like when you get those long instructions it’s like blah, blah, blah! Just tell me what to do in 50 words or less or I’ll have Paul do it. I just can’t learn that way. I never used to be able to learn in school this way either. I had such a hard time learning as a child. I’d understand in the classroom and then when I got home and the blackboard was gone, I always got lost.

    When I was learning musical notes, I did close my eyes.

    This is such an interesting subject.

    • SKL says:

      That’s interesting! It took me some effort to be able to play piano with my eyes closed, even for pieces I had memorized and never looked at the music. Somehow having my eyes closed seemed to change the way my brain worked.

      I can remember things I’ve seen, up to a point. I never had any trouble recalling what I’d learned in class (assuming I learned it!).

      • Nikki says:

        I wished I had learned an instrument. I’ve always been mesmerized by how someone can sit down at a piano and make such beautiful music so effortlessly. I love the piano, maybe best of all. That and the acoustic guitar. I can’t imagine learning that now. I think it’s better to start young. I envy those that play any instrument.

    • Joy says:

      I didn’t mean I played with my eyes closed. When I was learning them on paper was when I closed them and I was really talking about my flute. I was so young when I learned the piano that I’m not sure I put a lot of effort into it. I REALLY wanted to play the flute. I was “made” to play the piano.

  5. Karen Joy says:

    I think I stare straight ahead when Im thinking..Im not sure,let me think about it!Yup, straight ahead!Im a visual learner too,listening to anyone tell me it goes in one ear and out the other.

  6. Laura says:

    I know I stare when I memorize things, I don’t know if my eyes shift. I know for sure that they glaze over! I’ll unfocus them because I’m so focused on what’s going on inside my head that I don’t even pay attention to what my eyes are looking at. I could appear to be looking at the music, and not see it, because I’m focused on the music in my head.

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